Cover Letter Tips

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Cover letter-writing tips are readily available online and can be cherry-picked for the most useful ones. When those tips regarding standards, such as whether to mention and identify references in the letter or spelling standards, conflict with each other-e.g., is it "website" or "Web site"?-it will be important to try to identify a consensus or prevailing opinion.

In resolving disagreements about formatting, style and other cover letter elements, it can be useful to read reader responses to the blogger or expert opinions, since these are often posted by highly knowledgeable, indeed frequently more knowledgeable respondents.

Many tips should be regarded as just that: tips, not ironclad rules. The more closely a tip approximates a rule, the rarer contrary opinions will be. If a tip seems counter-intuitive to you, always attempt to find independent confirmation and endorsement of that tip.

Because the cover letter is such an important part of the job search process, here are some additional tips for writing excellent cover letters beyond just the content that should be included. Each cover letter should be written by the job seeker, targeted toward that company and that particular job, and directed to a specific person at the company, where appropriate and possible.

A job seeker should use clear and simple language, unless, of course, technical terminology is required for clarity and to demonstrate competence. Of course, the letter should be designed to impress-but as much in its evidence of communication skills as of the applicant's credentials. The more direct the writing in the letter is the better. It is acceptable to use contractions (unless emphasis is required, e.g., "It is not my expectation that...", and to use the word "I" when it is necessary. Active verbs should be used whenever possible. For example, "I improved efficiency 100%" is better than "Efficiency was improved 100% while I was in charge." A cover letter should never be more than one page long and preferably should be no more than three paragraphs long.

The person reading this letter is going to be reading many more of them; he or she will prefer and respect succinct communication to pedantic, flowery or turgid verbiage. Remember that presentation matters as well. The letter needs to be written with a word processing program and an appropriate font and features, such as bullets or with a typewriter for those few individuals out there who still have one and use it.

It needs to be written in a proper business format and should be carefully proofread for stylistic, structural, spelling and grammatical errors. If at all possible, the cover letter should also reflect the job seeker's personality and character, especially since the cover letter is usually the job seeker's one chance to impress the person reading it and convince him or her to set up an interview.
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